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Must Watch: Hearing Loss and Mixing

Martin S

Discount Bassy
It wasn't the only thing but it was a thing he did refer to.
YES! - That’s what we’re trying to tell you, Ferfooksake !! It’s 2 different conditions, both can lead to Tinnitus. In the case of infections etc. a patient may have success with various treatments (as in your case). In the case where your hearing is damaged by noise and your hair cells in the ear are damaged, the Tinnitus will be permanent and CAN NOT BE REPAIRED with current technology or medicine. This is a fact; ask any Doctor who specializes in this.

If you still don’t get, I strongly suggest you take this thread from the top.
 
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hoxclab

Member
YES! - That’s what we’re trying to tell you, Ferfooksake !! It’s 2 different conditions, both can lead to Tinnitus. In the case of infections etc. a patient may have success with various treatments. In the case where your hearing is damaged by noise and your hair cells are damaged, the Tinnitus will be permanent and CAN NOT BE REPAIRED with current technology or medicine. This is a fact; ask any Doctor who specializes in this.

If you still don’t get, I strongly suggest you take this thread from the top.
Is this what I was referencing in the beginning of my post? No. I suggest you take it from the top.
 

Alchemedia

Decomposer
I'm not.

You stated:
I've been to numerous specialists and done extensive research. Hearing loss due to fluid or infection as in your case is something else altogether. That's not what I or Gregory "dude from Kush" Scott was referring to.

In fact that is what he was referring to:

Are you having a hard time processing this? It wasn't the only thing but it was a thing he did refer to.
I'm afraid I'm unable to further help you in this matter so I'm referring you to a specialist.

 

Alchemedia

Decomposer
I have some of the same hearing impairments that Gregory Scott has (asymmetrical hearing, tinnitus, hi frequency loss) so I found it interesting that my mixes generally fit the same exact sonic profile that he described for his mixes when stacked up against iZotope's Tonal Balance Control. Fascinating.

I loved Gregory's tip of applying a LPF and then selectiviely boosting upper frequencies (that I can no longer hear) to gain control of the top end. That's a brilliant approach I'm going to start using right away.

Also, I know general advice is to mix at 85db because that's where the Fletcher-Munson curve is flattest, but I find 85db to be excruciatingly loud to my ears. If I try working at 85db for just 10-15 minutes, my ears will start ringing (beyond the usual tinnitus) and my hearing clouds up. Ususally takes a whole day, sometimes two, before hearing returns to "normal". So I mostly mix around 65db and occasionally check my mixes at 85db in short bursts. There are definitely things you don't hear at 65db, so checking at higher volumes is an important thing to do, but I can't endure it for long periods of time without impacting my hearing.

Take care of those ears, folks!
I can relate. Chris Lord-Alge insists that if you can't have a normal conversation while mixing the volume is too loud.
 

CATDAD

Member
I think @Alchemedia and @hoxclab you are both just saying/believe the exact same things so you should probably forget about it.

It's like muscle tendons. A strain could recover in a matter of weeks or months. A partial tear, a matter of years. A fully separated tear can never recover. If you take good care in recovery it will be much faster than if you continue to pepper them with stress. If you don't, it could lead to further damage.

I think it can be a slippery slope, because even temporary hearing loss may trick you in to turning everything up to overpower it without realizing it's happening. Then additional damage causes you to just keep going down that road til suddenly you find yourself just not being able to compensate anymore because of greater loss.

I like to set "upper limit" reference points on my interface amp controls, one for mastered tracks/consumption, and one higher one for mixing. Check the dials once in awhile, if they're too far out of the expected top-end I'll turn em down and take a break. This visual helps separate me from the auditory bias of getting used to the new, higher level over time.

I loved this video because it had a PSA that cannot be overstated enough, but with a hopeful attitude for those that have already experienced permanent damage. Greg's comment about not being able to hear a field of sound was frankly terrifying to imagine, but he went on to talk about how he still has a sense of depth that he focuses on.
 

hoxclab

Member
While we are on the topic. Does it make sense to have a larger speaker at a quieter volume than a smaller speaker at a louder volume in terms of ear health? What everyone's take on this?
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
While we are on the topic. Does it make sense to have a larger speaker at a quieter volume than a smaller speaker at a louder volume in terms of ear health? What everyone's take on this?
I could be worng, but I believe only the volume matters for the hearing damage. The different speaker sizes likely only give you a different frequency response. So you might want to get the one that has a good enough response to not make you want to turn up the volume to hear certain details better.
A while ago I saw this video on "the quiet mixing strategy", where he mentions fletcher munson curves:



That had me question whether I really should be striving to get a "flat" headphone, or if it wouldn't hurt to get one that is hyped a little in bass and hights to compensate for the low volumes I was planning to use them at.


I checked on amazon how expensive loudness measuring devices are and the cheapest ones start at around 20 to 30$. I was considering getting one but then I thought they probably wouldn't be able to give an accurate reading on a headphone, since they are designed to measure ambient noise.


My understanding is that headphones are potentially less damaging to hearing, IF they isolate well against outside noise, so that you can hear enough at lower volume. The main problem with listening to music on for example non-isolating earbuds in a city, is that they block no outside noise and you'd have to turn up the volume crazy high to "mainly hear music". On the other hand decent isolating in-ear headphones isolate well enough to let you mainly hear music at a much much lower volume. If they isolate super well against outside noise, in a busy city you might be able to listen at such a low volume, that your ears are overall getting less hammered with loudness than they would without wearing any headphones, from the raw traffic noise alone. On occasion I've worn such headphones outside, even without listening to music, just to turn down the noise and people a little.

That's why I'm still hoping for @Alchemedia to further explain this statement:
It's virtually impossible to use headphone at volumes low enough not to cause hearing damage over time.
because I can not reconcile it yet with what I believe to understand about hearing damage and headphones. But if I'm mistaken I sure would like to learn!
 

Alchemedia

Decomposer
@MartinH. Sound waves entering a sealed ear canal created by wearing headphones or earpods create an oscillating pressure chamber inside the eardrum that can produce a dramatic boost in sound pressure levels triggering an acoustic reflex in the ear which dampens the transfer of sound energy from the eardrum to the cochlea by as much as 50dBs (approx volume of a normal conversation). The protective acoustic reflex does not stop the pressure oscillations in the eardrum, but instead makes loud volumes seem lower than they actually are prompting the listener to increase volume to compensate. The tiny muscles involved in the acoustic reflex are reactivated and the repeated engagement and disengagement of those muscles leads to the pain and discomfort known as "listener fatigue" which can cause tinnitus and hearing loss.
 

el-bo

When life gives you lemons, swap 'em for mangos
@MartinH. Sound waves entering a sealed ear canal created by wearing headphones or earpods create an oscillating pressure chamber inside the eardrum that can produce a dramatic boost in sound pressure levels triggering an acoustic reflex in the ear which dampens the transfer of sound energy from the eardrum to the cochlea by as much as 50dBs (approx volume of a normal conversation). The protective acoustic reflex does not stop the pressure oscillations in the eardrum, but instead makes loud volumes seem lower than they actually are prompting the listener to increase volume to compensate. The tiny muscles involved in the acoustic reflex are reactivated and the repeated engagement and disengagement of those muscles leads to the pain and discomfort known as "listener fatigue" which can cause tinnitus and hearing loss.
What, in your opinion, might be a way of determining a safe volume for headphone/iem usage?
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
@MartinH. Sound waves entering a sealed ear canal created by wearing headphones or earpods create an oscillating pressure chamber inside the eardrum that can produce a dramatic boost in sound pressure levels triggering an acoustic reflex in the ear which dampens the transfer of sound energy from the eardrum to the cochlea by as much as 50dBs (approx volume of a normal conversation). The protective acoustic reflex does not stop the pressure oscillations in the eardrum, but instead makes loud volumes seem lower than they actually are prompting the listener to increase volume to compensate. The tiny muscles involved in the acoustic reflex are reactivated and the repeated engagement and disengagement of those muscles leads to the pain and discomfort known as "listener fatigue" which can cause tinnitus and hearing loss.

Thank you very much! I found an article that gives the same explanation as you do, but it sounds like they are only talking about earbuds, not over ear headphones:
Do you have a source that talks about this in regards to over ear headphones too?

To me it sounds like the damage still has mainly to do with volume, and the described phenomenon leads to people using unsafe volumes. However I wonder how responsive the phenomenon is. If we think of it as a compressor, I would expect the attack and release times to be really slow. I know the feeling of coming from a loud environment into a quiet environment and feeling like everthing is "unusually quiet" because the ears are still in "compression mode" and haven't recovered yet. Normally that's probably a sign of having experienced very unsafe levels of noise, so I haven't experienced this in a long while.

What, in your opinion, might be a way of determining a safe volume for headphone/iem usage?
If my assumptions are correct I would think you can set your speaker/monitor volume to be on par with a normal conversation, and then set your headphone volume so that you don't hear a difference in volume when you put them on or take them off. But that would only work if this compression effect of the ear is slow to react. And of course if you start to feel like the volume gets quieter over time if for some reason headphones trigger this compression reflex easier than monitors, you may not adjust the volume of the headphones and have to just deal with things sounding quieter. Does that make sense?
 

el-bo

When life gives you lemons, swap 'em for mangos
If my assumptions are correct I would think you can set your speaker/monitor volume to be on par with a normal conversation, and then set your headphone volume so that you don't hear a difference in volume when you put them on or take them off. But that would only work if this compression effect of the ear is slow to react. And of course if you start to feel like the volume gets quieter over time if for some reason headphones trigger this compression reflex easier than monitors, you may not adjust the volume of the headphones and have to just deal with things sounding quieter. Does that make sense?
Thanks!

But perhaps I'm missing something. I thought the idea was that a conversation, at distance, and within an open-air environment will not be as potentially detrimental as that same conversation happening right next to the ear-drum.

I'm thinking that maybe there'd be a way of incorporating a user-selectable hard-limit within our DAW, to be output to the cans. Perhaps it could be a feature added to any of the current headphone frequency-curve flatteners (DSoniq, Morphit etc.).
 

RogiervG

Senior Member
don't expose yourself to loud sound in a long run. (as long as it's audible what you need, it loud enough, no need to gain db's)

I have my sound always quite low, like normal. (not sure how many db's, but it's far from high volume/loud)

Yes, i have a hearing issue too, or so i think (and my age plays in a bit, in terms of frequencies i can hear): i hear stereo, but sometimes i think one side is louder than the other, while it isn't the case by metering and also by the amp settings on the speakers: same position on both. I also have issues with separating sound sources, meaning e.g. when in a conversation and there is background music, i can't easily pickup which is which (i see lips moving, i hea sound coming from the mouth, but cannot understand what is being said: need to really really focus on it before i can understand. It's like the music and voice get tangled up somehow. Might be a hearing issue, or somehting entirely different: brain issue perhaps?)
Might have damaged one ear a bit because of wrong sound checking on stage... (someone did high volume on a speaker, when i was in front of it. And stage speakers go very very loud)
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
But perhaps I'm missing something. I thought the idea was that a conversation, at distance, and within an open-air environment will not be as potentially detrimental as that same conversation happening right next to the ear-drum.
Well, that's definitely true because someone talking right next to your ear would be very loud, but I think that's not what you mean. The way I understand it, the headphones can make your ears "turn down" the subjective volume of everything, which people then compensate with more volume, and then the volume is harmful over the headphones and people don't realize it's actually louder.

However I do not believe that this effect is triggered to the same extend with all volumes and all types of headphones. I haven't seen any evidence yet that headphones are inherently bad, even if the levels are kept in check, but I'm open to being misinformed about this. It would be valuable information for sure.

I've had 2 encounters with way too much noise in my youth, each of which gave me permanent tinitus in one ear. But in the almost 20 years since then, my tinnitus didn't get worse at all, because I've been really careful about the noise levels that I expose myself to. Not a single concert without earplugs, it's the only way. For what it's worth, I've used in-ear headphones quite frequently, just not at high volumes.


I'm thinking that maybe there'd be a way of incorporating a user-selectable hard-limit within our DAW, to be output to the cans. Perhaps it could be a feature added to any of the current headphone frequency-curve flatteners (DSoniq, Morphit etc.).
In reaper you can just put a limiter inside the monitoring fx chain. My audio interface has a separate dial for headphone volume. But each headphone has a different output volume at the same input volume, so it's not a set-and-forget thing if you switch headphones often like I likely will.
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
(i see lips moving, but i sounds, but cannot understand what is being said: need to really really focus. It's like the music and voice get tangled up somehow)
Try if listening with the other ear works better, afaik for neurological reasons it's easier to understand voices with one ear compared to the other. I can't remember which one is better though and whether that was a universal truth or not.
 

RogiervG

Senior Member
Try if listening with the other ear works better, afaik for neurological reasons it's easier to understand voices with one ear compared to the other. I can't remember which one is better though and whether that was a universal truth or not.
I already did that, but no difference unfortunately. Both ears, i have a hard time following conversation, while other sounds sources on the same db's are present. That's why i am i bit in doubt if this has to do with hearing or not.
 
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el-bo

When life gives you lemons, swap 'em for mangos
Well, that's definitely true because someone talking right next to your ear would be very loud, but I think that's not what you mean. The way I understand it, the headphones can make your ears "turn down" the subjective volume of everything, which people then compensate with more volume, and then the volume is harmful over the headphones and people don't realize it's actually louder.

However I do not believe that this effect is triggered to the same extend with all volumes and all types of headphones. I haven't seen any evidence yet that headphones are inherently bad, even if the levels are kept in check, but I'm open to being misinformed about this. It would be valuable information for sure.

I've had 2 encounters with way too much noise in my youth, each of which gave me permanent tinitus in one ear. But in the almost 20 years since then, my tinnitus didn't get worse at all, because I've been really careful about the noise levels that I expose myself to. Not a single concert without earplugs, it's the only way. For what it's worth, I've used in-ear headphones quite frequently, just not at high volumes.

Thanks!

Maybe I misunderstood.

I've actually done my best recently to avoid loud volumes. I lost onboard audio to my computer on the last run of fixes, and have yet to locate the power adaptor to my audio interface. As such, i 've been using headphones for everything. I also game with iem and walk (often for hours at a time) with iem. I never really go loud, but I'm making more of an effort to go as low as possible.

So, yeah...would be good to get a better understanding

In reaper you can just put a limiter inside the monitoring fx chain. My audio interface has a separate dial for headphone volume. But each headphone has a different output volume at the same input volume, so it's not a set-and-forget thing if you switch headphones often like I likely will.
So really, we just need to know the decibels to set the limiter to :2thumbs:
 

MartinH.

Senior Member
So really, we just need to know the decibels to set the limiter to :2thumbs:
We'll likely never find out though, because we'd need to measure the output at the headphone to capture all variables in the chain. And even then, the "safe levels" are only guidelines. I don't think they intentionally gave enough people hearing damage in unethical studies to be sure what levels are "safe for all" vs "safe for most" people. I bet there are big differences from person to person what is harmful and what isn't. The first event that gave me tinnitus (listening in on band practice of some friends) from being there once didn't give any of the others who were there regularly permanent tinnitus. For them the ringing always stopped after a while, so no one thought to warn me about needing ear protection, and I simply had no clue how loud a drumkit and guitar amps are because I hadn't experienced anything like that before. So I'm not sure how to sensibly measure it, other than "earballing" it by using a fairly consistent reference sound like the human speaking voice as the measuring guideline.


@RogiervG: I have similar problems and I'm very sure it's not a hearing issue in my case. I just seem to have a slightly harder time understanding voices than others do. Or I'm just more willing to admit when I didn't understand something instead of just nodding along.
 

hoxclab

Member
@MartinH. Thanks for the video. I'm going to purchase Slick EQ M based off that awesome suggestion by Dan. And with all this talk I am going to schedule a hearing test. :cool:
 

el-bo

When life gives you lemons, swap 'em for mangos
We'll likely never find out though, because we'd need to measure the output at the headphone to capture all variables in the chain. And even then, the "safe levels" are only guidelines. I don't think they intentionally gave enough people hearing damage in unethical studies to be sure what levels are "safe for all" vs "safe for most" people. I bet there are big differences from person to person what is harmful and what isn't. The first event that gave me tinnitus (listening in on band practice of some friends) from being there once didn't give any of the others who were there regularly permanent tinnitus. For them the ringing always stopped after a while, so no one thought to warn me about needing ear protection, and I simply had no clue how loud a drumkit and guitar amps are because I hadn't experienced anything like that before. So I'm not sure how to sensibly measure it, other than "earballing" it by using a fairly consistent reference sound like the human speaking voice as the measuring guideline.
I dunno, man. You always seems to be spoiling my fun, these days :rofl: :dancedance: :rofl:
 
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